The Sree Seetha Ramachandra Swamy shrine at Bhadrachalam, the most famous temple in the country dedicated to Lord Rama, is situated on the left bank of the Godavari river. It is a place of pilgrimage for Hindus, considered to be one of the greatest holy shrines in South India with a very rich and unique historical background. The Temple was constructed in the 17th Century by the local Tahsildar, Kancharla Gopanna, popularly known as Bhakta Ramadas, a fervent devotee of Lord Sree Rama.
The puranic and historic facts relate that Lord Rama long after he had shed his mortal coils manifested himself to save his devotee Bhadra Maharshi whom he promised 'moksha' after intensive prayer. That is why the village is named after Bhadra as Bhadradri or Bhadrachalam. Srirama appeared in a dream to a woman called Pokala Dammakka and informed here about the existence of vigrahas on Bhadragiri hills. To her surprise she found the "Vigrahas" and put up a modest structure. This was the origin of the present temple.
Fairs and festivals
Two major festivals are being celebrated every year which were introduced and traditionally celebrated right from the tenure of Bhakta Ramadas. "Vykuntha Ekadasi" a religious festival that attracts lakhs(hundred thousand) of devotees from all over the country at this famous shrine Bhadrachalam, is celebrated in the months of either December or January in 'Dhanur Masam' on the day of either Pushya or Margasira shuddha Ekadasi. The ten day festival called Adhyayanotsavams and Dasavatara Mahotsavams(10 incarnations) of Sri Maha Vishnu are preceded to Vykuntha Ekadasi Fete.
On Dasami day , the colourful Teppotsavam is a special attraction to the devotees . The deities of Rama and his consort Sita will be taken into rounds on the holi river Godavari on a well decorated "Hamsavahana" ( on the swan shaped motor launch ) amid display of crackers and stupendous illumination . And on the auspicious Vykuntha Ekadasi day on the early hours exactly at 5 am Vykuntha dwarams at Northern Gate will be thrown open for darshan to devotees .The devotees believe that they will attain salvation after having Vykuntha Dwara darshan . This holi festival attracts lakhs of pilgrims .
Another major festival, Sri Rama Navami is being celebrated on every 'Chaitra shuddha navami ' on the auspicious 'Punarvasu' -'Janma Nakshatra' (birth star), of Lord Sri Rama. The Kalyanamahotsavam of Sri Rama with his consort Sita is celebrated on the holy occasion which falls either in the last week of March or first week of April. This divine festival is celebrated in a resplendent manner amid chanting of hyms by priests in Kalyanamantapam, richly engraved and exquisite sculptures depicting events from our Itihasas and Puranas, at the vicinity of stadium, where lakhs of devotees congregate to witness the fete with great devotional spirit and pay their owes for favours received or Solicited. The kalyanamahotsavam is celebrated on the holy occasion between 10 am and 12.30 pm and the sacred Talambralu showered on the deities exactly at 12 noon. This Sri Rama Navami Festival occassion is being broadcasted by All India Radio and telecast through Doordarshan on the festive day from 10 AM to 12 Noon. This is the only festival which is being covered by Akashavaani and Doordarshan as a Live programme all over the state (Andhra Pradesh).
A sacred place that attracts lakhs of devotees from all over the world, it is the abode of Lord Rama (The seventh incarnation of SriMahavishnu). This hill place which is encircled by holy river Godavari flowing towards southern direction is the famous shrine Bhadrachalam-The name derived from Bhadragiri (Mountain of Bhadra-a boon child of Meru and Menaka). According to a Ithihasas, the significance of this shrine dates back to the Ramayana Era. This coherent hill place existed in "Dandakaranya" Of Ramayana period where Rama with his consort Sita and brother Laxmana had spent their vanavasa- and Parnashaala(the place connected to the famous Golden Deer and the place from where Sita was abducted by Ravana.) is also in the vicinity of this temple site. It is at this Mandir site that, long after Ramavatara, Bhagawan Mahavishnu manifested Himself as Rama again to fulfil a promise He made to His Bhakta Bhadra, who continued his Tapas through Yugas, praying for the grace of the Bhagawan Sri Ramachandra murthy.
Exigency of Incarnation
The history depicts that the need emerged the incarnation of Vykuntha Rama was that to fulfill a long desire of his ardent devotee Bhadra.
Bhadra performed penance at the bank of river Godavari in this " Dandakaranya " to get grace of lord Rama and in countenance of his beloved God - The exulted "Rishi" implored Rama to be seated on his head ,but Rama who was in search of his consort Sita gave promise to his Bhakta that his desire would be fulfilled on his way back , after finding Sita and accomplishing the process of punishing the wicked Ravana and establish 'Dharma' . Thus the sage had been in continuation of the frightened penance as Rama could not accomplish the promise in Ramavatara . Then Sri Mahavishnu manifested himself as Vykuntha Rama and rushed to his devotee Bhadra , signaling hisarrival by blowing 'Shanku',accompanied by his consort Sita and brother Laxmana , resembling that of 'Gajendra Moksham ' - Thus , the moorthies of Rama ( having four hands ) - Shanku on the right , Chakra at his left and Dhanurbhana ( Bow and Arrow in the rest two hands ) , Sita had condescended on the left lap of Rama and brother ( at Rama's left ) are existed . And the hill place where the Deities were seated on , was the head place of Bhadra - achalam ( hill ) ,thus this shrine was transformed into Bhadrachalam .
The idols of Vykuntha Rama, Laxmana and Sita were found by Pokala Dhammakka. Pokala Dhammakka, an ardent devotee of Rama lived in the 17th century and was an inhabitant of Bhadrireddypalem, a mile away from this holy place. On one fine night, she had darshan of Rama in her dream who said "the saints and sages are worshiping my embodied moorthy settled on Bhadragiri" and asked her to trace them, perform pooja and attain salvation. On the very next day morning she started searching for the idols-peeped into an ant-hill and found the idols hidden in it. She poured hundreds of pots of Godavari water on the ant-hill which tardily dissolved and gave way for the appearance of the hidden Deities. Since then, she used to perform pooja daily and offer 'naivedyam' with fruits fallen from near palmyra tree and constructed a mandapam of thatch hut with the help of local villagers. Bhagawan Rama told Dhammakka that at a later date, one of his devotees would construct a Mandir at this site. Dhammakka waited patiently for the devotee. The devotee turned out to be Bhakta Ramadas.
Bhakta Ramadas and construction of temple
Bhadrachalarama temple was constructed by Kancharla Gopanna popularly known as Bhakta Ramadas in the year 1674 A.D.
Kancharla Gopanna, popularly known as "Bhakta Ramdas", a fervent devotee of Rama, was born to Linganna Murthy and Kamamba in Nelakondapalli village of Khammamett Taluk in 17th century (1620 AD). He was nephew of Akkannna, the administrative head in the court of Nawab Abul Hussan shah known as 'Taneshah' of Golkonda (he was the last ruler of Golconda before Aurangazeb captured it in 1687A.D.) and was appointed by him as Tahsildar of 'Palvoncha Paragana'. Thus he was discharging his official duties earnestly and collecting revenues due to the Nawabs in continuation of daily preaches -Chanting of 'Ramanama' and the feeding the poor at his house. Ramadasa, who heard the news that the villagers of palvoncha paragana were proceeding to witness a Jatara at Bhadrachalam , became curios and he too visited Bhadrachalam. He found the deities in an amazing appearance. Ramadas, then asked the villagers to contribute liberally for the construction of the temple. After the contributions were found to be insufficient, the villagers appealed him to spend the revenue collections for the construction of the temple with a promise to repay the amount after harvesting the crops. Accordingly, Ramadas constructed the temple with an amount of Rs 6 Lakhs collected from the land revenues with out the permission of the Nizam Nawab.
When the temple reached to the nearing completion, he had a problem of fixing 'Sudarshana Chakra' at the crest of the main temple. He was deeply distressed and fell into sleep. On the same night, Rama in his dream asked him to have a holy dip in river Godavari where he will find that-accordingly. On the next day morning Gopanna did so and found holy Sudarshana Chakra in the river with out much difficulty. He presumed that Sudarshana Chakra itself was shaped up with the divine power of his beloved God Rama. Soon after the construction, his miseries started. He was dismissed from service for mis-utilisation of revenue for constructing the temple and was kept in jail for 12 long years in Golkonda Fort and was tortured. Unable to withstand the miseries, Ramadas implored Rama to relieve him by singing many praising and emotional songs which got popularized from the stanzas of 'Dasaradhi Sathakam' and 'Keertanas' of Bhakta Ramadasa.
The Nizam Nawab Tanishah, the then ruler of Nizam's territory became a devotee of Rama who realised the devotion spirit of Ramadas after his imprisonment and took over the charge of temple administration. This resembles the communal harmony amongst the Hindus and Muslims. The Nizam Nawab realised Ramadas'devotional spirit and dedication towards Rama, when Rama and Laxmana repaid 6 lakh Mohurs exposing themselves as Ramoji and Laxmoji, the servants of Bhakta Ramadas to get release of their devotee from the imprisonment. Thanisha gave voucher to these divine looking persons who approached him at his house during late night. Then they kept the voucher under the pillow of Gopanna where he was jailed. Tanishah who woke up on the very next day morning realised that those divine looking persons were none other than Rama and Laxmana and made arrangements to get release of Gopanna and prayed to forgive him by placing all the Gold Mohurs received last night at the feet of Gopanna. But, he refused to take back those mohurs except two as a mark of divine significance. (Those two can still be seen kept in Bhadrachala Sri Sita Ramachandra Swamy vaari Devasthanam).
Influenced by the majesty of Lord Rama, Golkonda Ruler Tanishah earmarked the income derived from the said Palwoncha paragana which came to Rs 20,000 and odd for the maintenance of the temple which was continued during Nizam's reign and offering Pearls (Mutyala Talambralu) on the occasion of kalyana mahotsavam (Sri Rama Navami) to Deities on an elephant through a specially sent messenger. That procedure of sending pearls to the Deities is still followed by present state Government and continues to offer during Sri Rama Navami Festival (Kalyana mahotsavam). Tumu Narsimha Dasa,Tahasildar of Palwoncha paragana,along with his associate Varada Ramadasa came here from Guntur and took over the charge of Bhadrachalarama temple after Ramadas made inscripted the performance of Nitya Poojas and sevas right from early morning "Suprabhata Seva" till night "Pavalimpu Seva" before closure of the temple as "Silaasaasanaalu" on these two pillars. This inscription gives details of daily dictum and daily rituals also.